Security Upgrades Coming to Help Make Base Even Safer

by Argen Duncan, Nucleus editor

3/7/2016 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Kirtland Air Force Base commander assured residents during a town hall meeting Friday that the installation is safe, despite three recent trespassing incidents, and modifications will make it safer.

"Your safety is incredibly important to us," Col. Eric Froehlich, 377th Air Base Wing commander, told an audience of about 200 in the Base Theater.

Col. Richard Demouy, 377th Security Forces Group commander, explained the three incidents.

On Feb. 10, he said, a civilian approached the Gibson Gate, said he was lost and asked to turn around. Instead of complying with the turn-around procedure, the man gunned the vehicle onto base. The intrusion resulted in a vehicle pursuit and arrest of the suspect, who crashed at the closed Eubank gate. He was turned over to Albuquerque Police Department, who took him to a local hospital.

Security Forces turned the man over because APD could pursue greater charges against him. Demouy said the vehicle had been stolen, and the driver claimed to be high on methamphetamine.

On Feb. 22, a man scaled the perimeter fence into a housing area just before 1 a.m. A woman saw and reported him.

APD took part in the search, with Security Forces apprehending the man in 35 minutes. The suspect was again turned over to APD, Demouy said.

Additional calls from residents during the search helped defenders locate the suspect. However, blow-by-blow descriptions of defenders' movements that appeared on Facebook could have hampered the effort and put personnel in more danger, had a hostile party been monitoring the posts, he said.

Two days later, a motorist approached the Gibson Gate, appearing lost. He refused to roll down his window to speak with guards, sped onto the base and dodged the barriers an Airman deployed. Security Forces pursued the vehicle for a little more than half a mile before the driver crashed through the perimeter fence and fled off the base on foot.

Demouy said there was no evidence Kirtland was targeted in any of the incidents.

"It was simply happenstance that they ended up where they ended up," he said.

Demouy said leaders learned from every critical incident. Froehlich and Security Forces officials discussed upgrades and evolving tactics and equipment to ensure fortifications at the gates and along the perimeter were bolstered.

Maj. Brenton Pickrell of the 377th Security Forces Group said defenders are planning upgrades to the base camera system, as well as adding elevated monitoring positions. Froehlich and Demouy fielded several complaints of too little communication during incidents.

Demouy warned that detailed procedures needed to stay private for operational security, and defenders need a chance to get control of the situation before providing information about it. He and Froehlich promised improved communication, as far as practical, in the future.

Carl Grusnick of the Public Affairs Office said his staff would post incident updates on the Kirtland Air Force Base Facebook page when they became available.

Demouy said most of the several hundred Security Forces personnel live on base.

"So like you, we have a vested interest in coming home to an environment that's safe and secure," he said.

Pickrell also highlighted the downward trend of crime on base and at the gate over the last three years. In 2015, property damage, with 31 cases; DWI, with 29 cases; and unauthorized entry, with 21 cases, were the top reported crimes on base.

Kirtland Air Force Base crime trends:

Annual numbers
2013: 313 crimes reported
2014: 254 crimes reported
2015: 118 crimes reported
Change: 62 percent decrease in 3 years

60-day crime rate:
Kirtland: 26 crimes
Albuquerque, within 1 mile of base: 1,024 crimes

Law enforcement to resident ratios:
Kirtland: 1.8 defenders per 100 residents
Albuquerque Police: 1.7 officers per
10,000 residents

Source: Maj. Brenton Pickrell, 377th Security Forces Group

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